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    Archive for the ‘Oprah’ Category

    Oprah’s Reality Check

    When we last left Oprah and her “spiritual” vegan cleanse (all I’m saying is, my diet will often be vegan for several days, but that doesn’t stop me from getting irritated at the slow person in front of me at the supermarket checkout line who sloooowly counts their pennies), she was enjoying the perks of having a vegan chef ship her foods to Las Vegas (because what’s more spiritual than having a private jet deliver your cruelty-free meals?) and absolutely loving every second of her vegan, gluten-free, sugar-free, alcohol-free life.

    By now, Oprah has finished her 21 day journey. What happened in the last week and a half is certainly interesting.

    No longer armed with a vegan chef, Oprah is forced to endure the rest of the “challenge” as any normal person would.

    Off the bat, I notice her entries start to get shorter, and comments along the lines of “just two more days” or “I was really craving some cheese!” begin popping up.

    Although Oprah later waxes poetic about what an eye-opening experience this was, and how it provided her with heightened awareness of her food, she forgets to mention a more important point — that overly restrictive eating plans are doomed for failure.

    This entire “project” felt like a silly crash diet. After twenty-one days of strict rules, old eating habits apparently returned, in large part due to constant cravings.

    On her last day, Oprah’s lunch consists of “a large baked potato with sautéed onions, herbs and olive oil, and [a] fresh green salad with avocado,tomato, lemon, garlic and olive oil.”

    As two side dishes, those are wonderful, filled with nutrition.

    However, as a meal, they are inadequate.

    In that same entry, Oprah considers it “progress” that she’s just “wishfully thinking” about having some grilled sea bass with it.

    Huh? Grilled sea bass would be a wonderful accompaniment to that potato and salad, offering lean protein, healthy fats, and zinc.

    This idea that it is but an indulgent fantasy is rather twisted. We aren’t talking about a Twinkie here.

    Besides, being vegan is not about subsisting on vegetables. Why not accompany those side dishes with grilled tofu, roasted tempeh, a soy patty, or even some quinoa?

    A few days prior to that entry, Oprah mentions craving wheat. I still feel like breaking through the computer monitor and saying, “What is so spiritual about denying yourself wheat? Just have some already!”

    Anyhow, I hope her viewers and readers took away the most important lesson — non-sensical strict rules and banning multiple food groups overnight is not healthy, spiritual, or smart.

    Over in Oprah Land….

    Time to see what Oprah’s blog reveals about her ongoing 21-day vegan diet (remember, she’s also shunning sugar, gluten, alcohol, and caffeine).

    Last Friday, Oprah stopped by Tom Cruise’s Telluride home, where she was met with a “ribs and chicken” (marinated in some sort of Scientology-friendly sauce, I’m sure) lunch.

    Granted, this was no vegan-friendly meal, so Oprah opted for salad, corn on the cob (no butter, of course) and kale.

    Which brings me to a very important point. Well-balanced vegan mealplans need to be researched and planned.

    I believe a vegan lifestyle can be healthy, but it must be looked into carefully prior to taking the plunge.

    If anyone reading this is considering going vegan, be my guest — but speak with a Registered Dietitian or, at the very least, read educational materials (preferably written by RDs) on how to meet your nutrient needs with meat and dairy alternatives.

    Becoming familiar with vegan alternatives and always being prepared (i.e.: carrying a source of protein like nuts or seeds in your bag in a small Ziploc bag) sets you up for success.

    Otherwise — especially when attending an event at a non-vegan’s house who is not familiar with your “diet,” — you run the risk of piling up on side dishes.

    Oprah’s lunch offers very little protein, zinc, iron, and fat. Nibbling on corn and greens is simply not nutritious — or filling!

    The next day — Saturday — Oprah is in Vegas and begins her entry with the following:

    “Tal [the vegan chef ‘assigned’ to Oprah and her team] has Fed-Exed food to Vegas, so we have egg-less omelets for breakfast and lasagna for the plane ride home.”

    Alright, I cry foul. Come on — anyone can do a 21 day vegan/sugar/wheat/alcohol/caffeine cleanse if a vegan chef Fed-Exes them meals!

    I would have liked to see Oprah “keep it real” and traverse the meat-laden obstacle that is Las Vegas.

    In that same posting, Oprah proudly mentions abstaining from having a celebratory glass of champagne.

    I still don’t understand how the shunning of alcohol (or gluten or sugar, for that matter) relates to becoming a more spiritually aware being.

    Besides, any dietary plan that has you obsessing over certain foods and beverages (the “I would like a drink but I am on this clease so as good as that would be I am just going to have seltzer and lime” sentiment has appeared a few times already) needs to be examined more closely.

    Sure, alcohol can be a source of empty calories, so although two drinks a day is not a good idea, not allow yourself one drink two days out of the week?

    The next day, a pooped Oprah mentions the vegan chef dropping off gluten and wheat-free waffles at her house just in time for breakfast. Oh goodie, how convenient!

    It frustrates me to think that viewers of Oprah’s show will blindly follow a similar diet, oblivious of some very necessary nutrients they may miss out on.

    Additionally, this idea that wheat and gluten are evil is misleading and completely subjective; it is only a problem for someone with a gluten allergy or celiac disease.

    This is a perfect example of something applicable to a small percent of the population being heralded as “general nutrition advice”

    Allow me to repeat my plea. Oprah, enough with the fad dieting. You’re a smart, accomplished woman with an immense fan base.

    Next time you want to tackle nutrition, why not invite a panel of Registered Dietitians to share information, debunk myths, and give people practical information they can apply to their daily lives?


    Checking in with Oprah

    I recently told you about Oprah’s 21-day vegan cleanse (which, apart from obviously shunning all animal-derived foods, also bans sugar, gluten, alcohol, and caffeine).

    The talk show queen is blogging on her site and updating everyone on her progress.

    Day 1 was fairly easy to traverse.

    You certainly can’t knock it as an unhealthy eating pattern.

    That day alone includes standouts like oatmeal, blueberries, strawberries, wild rice, a baked potato, and olive oil.

    As wonderfully whole as all those foods are, I have some concerns.

    Despite providing sufficient calories (roughly 1,600), fiber, and protein, the total amounts of vitamin B12, vitamin D, and calcium do not meet requirements.

    Additionally, such a heavy reliance on nuts (they are eaten at breakfast, lunch, dinner, and as a snack) really drives up the Omega-6 fatty acid content.

    This is slightly troublesome because, apart from some walnuts at breakfast and olive oil as salad dressing, Omega-3 intake isn’t that high.

    Remember, the Omega-6 to Omega-3 ratio plays an important role in our health.

    I would personally add flaxseed to breakfast and replace the pinenuts in the dinner salad with nori (or some other sort of seaweed, naturally rich in Omega 3 fatty acids.)

    By the next day, things get interesting — and a little unrealistic. Oprah and her exec producers (also doing this diet with her) get their very own vegan chef!

    And, alas, I’m back to my original gripes with this entire “cleanse.”

    When you start banning multiple food groups and not allowing yourself to have gluten (the most bizarre part of this plan; there is no reason to give up gluten unless you have an intolerance to it) or sugar, you’ll find that unless you are very experienced around a kitchen and alternative ingredients — or hire a personal chef — it is not easy to maintain a dietary lifestyle that is interesting, practical, healthy, and balanced.

    For Oprah and her colleagues to go the personal chef route is a bit of a copout. They should attempt to do this on the average income of an adult in the United States.

    Take this example — on day two, Oprah and her fellow cleansers wake up to strawberry rhubarb wheat-free crepes.

    Do you think that on a random Wednesday morning you’ll find yourself concocting such a recipe in your kitchen at 7 AM? I doubt it.

    A successful eating plan is not only nutritious and tasty, it also has to be convenient. What’s so wrong about some whole or sprouted grain toast with peanut butter?

    Or a bowl of whole grain cereal (slightly sweetened, say a measly 3 grams of sugar per serving) with soymilk and raisins?

    In yesterday’s blog entry
    , Oprah hints at another problem with these overly strict regimens (let me make something very clear: it is one thing to be vegan, but a whole other thing to be a vegan who abstains from sugar, coffee, alcohol, and gluten) — they can render you defenseless outside the four walls of your home.

    Oprah mentions flying to Las Vegas later this week and being slightly nervous about her choices.

    I hope she prepares herself for an eye-opening experience.

    Forget vegan-friendly, Vegas is barely vegetarian-friendly.

    Even something as standard and semi fast food-ish as a veggie burger is hard to come by. The only place where I felt healthy cooking was a priority was the spa at the Venetian Hotel.

    Otherwise, bring your own snacks!

    I found today’s entry to be cause for concern:

    “I hit a wall today. Literally had to stand in my closet and bound the walls, the cabinets, the floor for a few minutes and take some deep breaths.”

    A well-planned, balanced, practical eating plan should not have you feeling like this on day four.

    This is why I very much oppose overnight radical shifts. Not only is there no physiological benefit to banning things left and right from one day to the next, it also conjures up issues of self-flagellation and unnecessary deprivation that often accompany a lot of weight loss plans.

    It particularly upsets me because it sends very erroneous messages: healthy eating is a chore, it involves giving up pleasures, it pushes your body to the limit.


    The path to healthy eating and smart choices is not always going to be smooth and easy — it is perfectly common and understandable to have the occassional setback — and extreme approaches such as this “cleanse” certainly don’t help.

    It’s a shame that someone as influential and looked up to as Oprah isn’t using her show as a platform to show that wellness and health can be achieved without personal chefs, swearing off foods, or feeling like the world is caving in on you.

    Anyhow, Oprah has two more weeks to go. I’ll be sure to follow her progress and keep you all in the loop.


    O No!

    The issue of detoxing with dietary cleanses has been a hot topic on Small Bites over the past few days.

    In what is an interesting coincidence, Oprah Winfrey has begun a 21-day vegan cleanse inspired by Quantum Wellness author Kathy Freston.

    Freston, a self-described spiritual advisor (with no nutrition credentials), suggests this cleanse as a way to begin a “spiritual makeover”.

    Freston’s belief is that spiritual enlightenment includes a diet free of all animal products.

    Alright, full disclosure time: I have not eaten red meat, poultry, or pork since 1998.

    That decision was made after being informed of what I considered to be cruel treatment and welfare of animals who later become food.

    There was also the issue of the environmental toll resulting from raising animals for human consumption.

    So, while I can certainly appreciate the ideas of awareness and enlightenment, I am put off by attaching a 21-day vegan “cleanse” to the concept of a spiritual makeover.

    Going vegan for 3 weeks is not a cure for low self-esteem, anxiety, fear, or loneliness.

    Furthermore, if this is about enlightenment and the use of animals as food, why does this cleanse also ban (UGH, UGH, UGH) sugar, caffeine, gluten, and alcohol?

    Any plan that asks you to ban, forbid, or do away with certain foods or food groups overnight is a recipe for disaster.

    If anything, such abrupt changes will leave you more irritable, moody, and cranky than Kumbayah.

    Think of it this way. If you suddenly decided you wanted to start swimming, would you go for 50 laps your first time around? I don’t think so.

    Anyhow, Oprah started the cleanse this week and will update readers via her blog.

    I will follow this closely and comment on anything that stands out to me.

    Later today, I will take one of Oprah’s sample days and see what we come up with from a caloric and nutrient standpoint.


    Best of the Worst

    Yesterday evening I strolled the aisles of my local supermarket with a dual purpose.

    First and foremost — buy food.

    Secondly — seek out ideas for this blog.

    One thing that immediately jumped out at me was the vast number of products bearing Bob Greene’s “Best Life Diet” seal of approval.

    As anyone with access to a television knows, Mr. Greene rose to fame as Oprah’s trainer and diet guru.

    Soon thereafter, Bob’s Best Life Diet was created.

    Over on Oprah’s website, we find the following tidbit:

    “Bob says one of his great passions is to change the way companies manufacture food — but he emphasizes that the consumers are really in control.”

    In fact:

    “This January, Bob Greene and Oprah launched the 2008 Best Life Challenge, encouraging people across the country to sign the contract and make today the day you finally commit to climb off the diet roller coaster and make a healthier lifestyle for yourself.”

    Wonderful initiative, but the execution falls short.

    I randomly picked up four different products displaying the Best Life Diet Seal of Approval and spotted a few less-than-stellar ingredients:

    Let’s start with the Fiber One Oats & Chocolate bars.

    A quick glance at the ingredient list reveals that they contain more chocolate chips, sugar, and hydrogenated coconut oil (hello trans fats) than actual oats.

    Another red flag? The presence of high fructose corn syrup.

    They contain nine grams of fiber and are fairly low in calories, so while they are not a pint of ice cream, I can’t for the life of me understand why they get a Seal of Approval from someone claiming to help consumers track down healthy choices at the supermarket.

    Why not award that seal to a truly healthy, simple, and deserving product like Lara or Clif Nectar bars?

    Yoplait Yogurt, another highlighted product, contains added sugar and high fructose corn syrup.

    Why this gets a gold star over, say, plain yogurt that can be topped with real fruit pieces blows my mind.

    Then we have Green Giant’s Just for One Corn Niblets & Butter Sauce frozen trays.

    The 120 calories and low-fat claims make a fairly decent first impression, but the 330 milligrams of sodium get a jeer from me. What’s wrong with plain frozen corn sauteed in some olive oil?

    Remember, these products are not under the “Not terrible, but there are definitely healthier options out there” column.

    These products are ones Bob Greene has no qualms putting his name and seal on and describing as “the best” when it comes to nutrition.

    I then picked up a can of Progresso Soup, the only soup recommended soup in the diet.

    I’m supposed to be okay with the fact that a can of soup containing 1,500 milligrams of sodium is recommended to someone looking to live a healthier lifestyle?

    In approximately 45 seconds I spotted two others brands offering soups with half that sodium amount!

    This posting may very well shatter my chances of ever appearing on Oprah, but I can’t sit back and be okay with the idea that nutritionally mediocre products are, for whatever reason, receiving undeserved endorsement.


    Shame On You: Kevin Trudeau (Part 6)

    Now that Kevin Trudeau has shared some of his “earth-shattering” secrets for warding off sickness with us, let’s take a peek at chapter eight, titled “How to Lose Weight Effortlessly and Keep It Off”.

    This was one I was anxiously awaiting and simultaneously afraid to read.

    Trudeau begins this chapter by setting up an all-too familiar tale. Once an overweight child, he was always conscious of his weight.

    He claims to have done everything under the Sun to lose weight through adulthood (even “exercising as much as five hours a day,” which sounds more like hyperbolic prose than reality), but it wasn’t until he “went abroad” that he found the answer.

    While living abroad, I ate everything I wanted, yet began to lose weight without trying,” he confides.

    While it is true that obesity in the United States is reaching unbelievable proportions, the rest of the world isn’t immune. For instance, 12% of French adults are obese and 40% are overweight, while half of Great Britain’s adult population is overweight.

    Truth is, downing croissants and hot cocoa for an entire month will add on pounds, whether you’re doing it in Seattle or the Alps.

    Over the next few weeks I’ll analyze some of the “secrets” Trudeau claims are 100% guaranteed to help you lose weight.

    Hopefully, with each passing week you share my disbelief that this man has sold five million copies of Natural Cures “They” Don’t Want You To Know About.

    “Do not eat after six p.m.”

    One of the most aggravating nutrition myths. For some reason, Oprah loves to dispense this “tip” to her viewers anytime she discusses weight loss.

    The fact of the matter is, calories do not care when you eat them. A 600 calorie ice cream sundae will provide 600 calories whether you have it for breakfast or at 10 PM.

    Trudeau claims, “… the good news is you can virtually eat like a pig all day long. And if you stop eating after 6 p.m., you will still lose weight.

    Really? I dare anyone who normally eats 2,000 calories to consume 3,500 calories between 9 AM and 6 PM and drop half a pound.

    Not to mention, why is 6 PM the “magic number”? Why not 7? Or 8? Or 10? Beats me! Trudeau appears to have picked this number out of thin air. There is absolutely no research proving that eating carelessly all day and abstaining from food starting at 6 PM results in weight loss.

    Not eating after 6 PM might be plausible if you go to bed at 7:30, but if you don’t hit the sack until 11 PM or midnight, going to bed on an empty stomach does not make you thinner.

    Trudeau should be emphasizing healthy habits, not telling people to down as many calories as they want while the sun is up with the ridiculous claim that as long as they keep their mouths shut after 6 PM they’ll lose weight.

    The only thing this 6 PM rule is likely to do is decrease your total caloric intake each day, resulting in weight loss. People fall prey to unhealthy snacking late at night, so cutting that out (along with the extra calories) will obviously result in some weight being shedded.

    “Do a colon cleanse.”

    I went over this in a previous post — but allow me to repeat. This results in immediate water weight loss, but you will not burn fat or truly lose weight by flushing out your colon.

    “Eat organic grapefruits all day.”

    Uhhh. OK. The reasoning behind this? “There is an enzyme in grapefruit that burns fat. Eating grapefruits all day, as many as you desire, will speed the fat burning process.

    People are too quick to select an isolated enzyme that shows promise in a controlled lab setting and attribute it to a food. Yes, true, there is an enzyme in grapefruits that speeds up the fat burning process, but not enough to help anyone lose weight just by having some grapefruit slices.

    Remember, grapefruits still have calories. So if you are eating 8 grapefruits a day (which I guess is allowed according to Trudeau since he’s encouraging people to eat them “all day long”), that’s 640 calories added to your day.

    There is no food that, when eaten, results in negative total calories. None.

    Also, what kind of nutrition advice is it to tell someone to eat a food “all day” in unlimited quantities?

    “Absolutely no aspartame or artificial sweeteners.”

    I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. I wouldn’t tell someone currently not consuming artificial sweeteners to start, but an occassional diet Coke or sugar free popsicle will not kill anyone.

    Regardless, this is more of a wellness/health debate, not a weight loss one. Aspartame does not contribute calories. Having it does not contribute to weight gain.

    As I have mentioned before, though, the problem with artificial sweeteners is that they are often found in foods that are nutritionally empty and offer nothing in terms of vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, and antioxidants.

    “No fast food or chain restaurants.”

    Well, depends on what you’re eating — and how much! As Dr. Lisa Young recently told us, portion sizes in fast food restaurants have been exploding. So, yes, it is easy to consume half (or more!) a day’s worth of calories in one sitting when an order of large fries is as large as a toddler’s head.

    However, according to Trudeau, the problem isn’t the food itself, but rather the hidden dangers found in food produced by chain restaurants.

    You can actually eat French fries and cheeseburgers and lose weight, provided that the ingredients they use are all organic and contain no chemical additives,” he throws out with quite a bit of chutzpah.

    This is another huge myth. Organic food (while lacking pesticides and being environmentally friendly) is not less caloric or fattening than the same conventional product. Organic butter has as many calories per teaspoon as non-organic butter, and an organic hamburger bun is still lacking the fiber in a Wonder Bread hamburger bun.

    Trudeau contends that fast food restaurants are placing addictive chemicals into their food that keep us coming for more, which in my opinion is a provocative, yet feeble, conspiracy theory.

    I always find it funny that a food is only considered “addictive” when it is unhealthy.

    For instance, someone eating nine grapefruits a day (which Trudeau appears to be s
    o fond of) might be considered a “health nut”.
    No one would ever dream of pointing the finger at the grapefruit and accusing it of being a dirty, rotten fruit that drives people to addiction.

    However, change that grapefruit for a Dorito and suddenly Frito-Lay is suspected of throwing in a pinch of crack in their nacho cheese flavoring.

    If hamburgers and fries are a daily staple for you — whethey they are organic or not — you’ve got your weight loss goal cut out for you.

    Next week — more of Trudeau’s “secrets” (and my eye rolls).


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